‘I think she’s awfy game’

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Tom Sandison

Tom Sandison, an 80-year-old resident at Waverley Care Home in Galashiels, remembers meeting King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1946 while he was worked as a plater’s boy tightening rivets in the Leith shipyards.

“The King was in naval uniform, and they were both chatting to people. They asked me what I was doing. She was a nice lady, and George was a great man. Everyone was very sad when he died.”

Later in 1967, Tom met Princess Margaret at Fort George, when she became chief of his regiment, the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

“She shook hands with me and said: ‘Look after yourself, soldier’. I said: ‘Yes, your Highness’. Then I went out to Korea.

“The Queen’s a nice lady, like - a good head for the country. With all the things she’s got to do, three or four hundred times a year, I wouldn’t like the job.”

Molly Buchanan

Molly Buchanan, 81, a resident at Selkirk’s Bield care home in Mungo Park Court, remembers the day she heard King George IV had died on February 6, 1952.

“I was working in the dairy at the South Common. My husband had gone inside the house, and heard it on the radio.”

Margaret Cowan, 81, heard the news a different way: “I saw it on the Pathe news at Selkirk Picture House.”

In the 61 years since her father’s death and 60 years on the Throne, the Queen’s unfailing performance of public duties, even into her 80s, has won Molly’s admiration: “I think she’s awfy game. She’s done very well for her age.”

If the Queen were to visit, “we’d ask her what’s her secret – how she’s kept going,” says the Selkirk nursing home manager, Margaret Pritchard: “all that stamina, and her mind is still going strong.”

Alice Hubbuck

For many like 83-year-old Alice Hubbuck, also a resident at the Selkirk care home, Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was the first time they’d watched a television.

“I was at a relative’s house,” she remembers, “because they’d bought a television for the coronation.”

Years later, when the Queen visited Selkirk, Alice was still getting to grips with technology: “I remember when the Queen came to the town, I got my camera, but the car had passed before I got my photo.”

While few at the care home recalled the day of her coronation, more seemed to remember her visit to Selkirk.

“Prince Philip’s been a marvellous help to her – always at her side,” said Margaret Cowan. “He was such a handsome man,” she recalls, “he still is - just like him,” pointing to 92-year-old resident Nichol Park.

Nichol Park

Nichol, a descendant, he says, of explorer Mungo Park and Sir Walter Scott, also recalls the Queen’s visit to Selkirk.

“There were no street parties, but the town got a good clean-up. I remember she appeared on the balcony of the Victoria Hall.”

Asked if any octogenarians around the table at Selkirk’s Bield care home could keep up with the Queen and Prince Philip’s workload, Nichol commented: “I think we’d need to have plenty of vitamins.

“She’s been a good Queen, and kept her posture,” he said, before adding: “William would be a better King than Charles. We should maybe skip Charles and go straight on to William.”

Margaret Cowan

While Britons measure time by a monarch’s reign, dividing epochs into Tudor, Elizabethan or Georgian, the Souters o’ Selkirk measure the passing years in a different way.

Asked to recall the year she saw the Queen in Selkirk, Margaret Cowan, 81, replied: “It was the year Gordon Hislop was Standard Bearer. It’s funny the things you remember.”

Margaret’s unit of time, shared by many pensioners sitting around the Selkirk care home’s coffee table that morning, perhaps puts the monarchy into its place – for the people of Selkirk, and indeed, Hawick and Gala and any other Border town, appoint their own King or Queen every year.

Isobel Hill

Selkirk’s group of elderly citizens are unanimous in their respect for the Queen - with not a single dissenting voice.

Isobel Hill, aged 80 and described as a mere bairn by the group, said: “I think she’s been a good monarch. She’s just been a marvellous person. I admire her very much.”

“She’s put the country first every time,” adds 82-year-old Rita Johnston.

Asked what they would like to say to the Queen should she visit Selkirk again in her Jubilee year, 82-year-old Effie Scott said: “We’d like to say ‘Congratulations: you’ve done so well.’”

“We’d like to say ‘Congratulations, and continued good health and wealth in the future’,” contributed Nichol. “It doesn’t matter much about the wealth,” quipped Alice - “she’s already got loads of that.”

Margaret Ferguson

Margaret Ferguson, an 84-year-old resident of Gala’s Waverley Care Home, recalls the Queen’s coronation well.

“I remember the year - I was married in 1953. My brother’s landlady had a TV set in Penicuik, and I was invited to watch.

“It was black and white in those days, but I remember the sheer difference after the war times: it was just spectacular and extravagant. She’s a lovely lady without a doubt, but in the present day it’s sad to know people are starving in the streets, while some live in palaces and have riches beyond belief.

“It doesn’t really make you happy. There’s too much fuss about the Jubilee. Any pageant, the cost must be terrific, compared to using it in some practical way.”

‘Tow’ Graham

Lauder man Alexander “Tow” Graham, 84, currently healing his broken leg at Gala’s Waverley Care Home, admires Queen Elizabeth II’s staying power.

“She’s been a staunch woman, being on the Throne for 60 years. I admire how she can approach people and talk to them, putting them at their ease and making them feel wanted.”

Mr Graham is staunch himself in his belief in the monarchy – but with reservations about the future: “I don’t think we should be without a Queen. She’s a figurehead we should look up tae, and respect.

“But I cannae fathom Charles, and Andrew and Edward are different kettles of fish altogether.”